Monday, February 13, 2012

Ethical and Moral Dilemmas

Yesterday was Abraham Lincoln's birthday. We celebrated at the library with a cake, punch and some crafts for those in the mood. Our library has been busy for months with many programs that deal with the Civil War. The Head of Adult Services, Suzanne Fisher, has come up with a unique method in which to view and study the Civil War. She has arranged a tour of Albany Rural Cemetary to view all the Civil War soldiers and other people buried there with Civil War connections. She is hosting book discussions, a film series, textile lectures and workshops, and musical programs. What does this have to do with children's books? Well, when I think of the Civil War, I think about Lincoln and I always have that tall, almost sad, but steady gaze on me. What a remarkable man, an ethical man, with a moral compass that was able to write important words for a grieving nation. Those giant dilemmas are not ones any person should have to face, but sometimes the small stories of ethical dilemmas can point the way to a moral compass later in life.

My 7th grade friends have been reading books with moral dilemmas, although we call these stories coming-of-age. Enjoy their reviews!

Woodson, Jacqueline. Locomotion. New York: G.P. Putnam’s sons, 2003 Print.
Imagine you lost your parents in a fire. It’s just you and your little sister. You’ve been split up with different foster parents. Find out what happens in the exciting novel Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson. The story takes place in Lonnie’s neighborhood in present day. Lonnie uses poetry to deal with his feelings.
Lonnie comes of age when he and his sister get split up and have different foster parents. When his parents passed away he became more mature and moved on with his life. This book would appeal to ages 10-13 years old. I loved this book and I encourage you to read it. If you like poetry then you will love this book too!~Summer

Weeks, Sarah. So B. It. New York: Scholastic Inc., 2005. Print.
Have you always wondered what your past is like, but you just can’t figure it out? This is how, Heidi It feels. Read about her life in Sarah Weeks wonderful book So B. It. This action-packed and drama-filled book takes place in Reno, Nevada where mysteries are everywhere, in Heidi’s mind. Heidi is one of the funny, crazy and weird characters. All the characters in this book have their own problems: Heidi who knows nothing about the past, So B. It who is mentally challenged, Ruby who is filled with sorrow, Bernie who has AP and Thurman Hill who is scared and worried about the past.
Throughout this book Heidi begins to grow up. But, when she has a talk with Thurman Hill her life changes forever. I would recommend this book to anybody who likes drama, action, adventure and funny people. I think those people would like this book because it’s all that and more. I personally think that this was a great book, but the choice is yours. ~Patrick

Hinton, S.E. The Outsiders. New York: Dell Publisher, 1995. Print.
Have you ever thought what it would be like as an outcast? Now meet Ponyboy in The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. Ponyboy is on the wrong side of the tracks and just witnessed a murder. Ponyboy must either face the consequences with the gang and police or runaway. In this book there are socs and greasers. Ponyboy is a greaser along with his two brothers and gang. Greasers stick together like family and don’t get much while socs get the “cool” stuff. Socs and greasers don’t like each other and have fights.
Since he witnessed a murder he has to make a choice to stay or runaway but his choice may have consequences. Ponyboy grows up by facing reality and to stick together with his brothers and his gang. If you like a simple read, but a realistic story, true friendships, and some action, then you should read this book. It is also a book that loops around so that you could read it over and over again. ~Kailee

Preller, James. Bystander. Harrisburg: RR. Donnelley & Sons, 2009. Print.
What would you do if you were the new kid in town and you were surrounded by kids who were bigger than you? I don’t know what you would do, but Eric Hayes handles this situation on his own in the book Bystander by James Preller. This book takes place in a modern day school in Long Island, NY. Here Eric Hayes starts his journey to adulthood. Eric is a middle school student who runs into another kid named Griffen. Griffen and Eric have a very interesting and conflicting relationship. Throughout this book Eric becomes more aware of his surroundings and he gains a lot if self-confidence throughout the process. Personally, I didn’t like this book. I don’t think the author did a good job explaining what he wrote; for example he will give an idea and then not support it with any details. I think this book may be appealing to a school councilor, a teacher, or someone who has a problem with a bully. ~Miles

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Reviews Galore!

The reviews continue to come in from the Voorheesville Middle School. Here are more that will make you want to read these books.

Park, Barbara. The Graduation of Jake Moon. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2000. Print.
In The Graduation of Jake Moon by Barbara Park, Jake’s grandfather, Skelly, has Alzheimer’s and complicates Jakes life in strange ways in a small town. Ever since Skelly was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Jake has had a hard time with school and friends or life in general.
Jake’s 8th grade graduation is another example of how Skelly is always in trouble. During his graduation Skelly goes on the stage and knocks everything over by accident. Then Jake goes and calms down Skelly and takes him off the stage. The age range of kids who would enjoy this book is 8-12 years old. You would also like this book if you wanted a quick read or you like funny books. ~Boden

Spinelli, Jerry. Crash. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009. Print.
Have you ever known somebody who is really weird and just makes you mad? Well if you do, you can relate to Crash Coogan. Crash is a typical seventh grade football player, big, strong and obnoxious. He and his best friend Mike always bully his neighbor Penn Webb. Penn is a strange skinny Quaker from North Dakota.
Newbery-award-winner Jerry Spinelli nails life as a seventh grader on the head, with excellent descriptions and dialogue. Crash is forced to rethink his actions when a family crisis occurs. Will he tolerate Penn or stick to his old way? How will he react when he is neck and neck with Penn in the biggest race of the year? ~Bryson

Preller, James. Bystander. New York City: Fiewel and Friends, 2009. Print.
Will he stay the bystander or stand up against bullying. Find out when you read Bystander by James Preller. This story takes place on Long Island, New York, where, two boys Griffin and Eric are at a standoff. Eric has to decide: stay loyal or stand up to Griffin.
Bystander’s theme is coming of age. Eric has to come of age by standing up to Griffin. Eric needs to man up and teach Griffin how to treat others. I really liked this book. It made me think of how people treat each other. I think you should read this book if you are a bully, a bystander, or victim because it will inspire you to do the right thing. So, will you stay quiet or be loud and stand up for someone? ~Spencer

Giff, Patricia Rielly. Pictures of Hollis Woods. New York: Dell Yearling, 2002. Print.
Poor Hollis Woods thought she wasn’t going to stay in any foster home very long. That is going to change. When the agency brought Hollis to Miss Josie Cahill, she realized that Josie needed her help. Through flashbacks, Hollis shares what happened on the mountain on a hot summer day.
I recommend this book to ages 12-15 year olds. You will learn how Hollis made it through the life as an orphan in the book Pictures of Hollis Woods. Learn whic family she ends up staying with! ~Cameron

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Growing UP

It is hard to face reality and come to understand consequesnces, especially when one is young. The books that my friends from Voorheesville Middle School have been writing reviews for all have difficult choices facing the protagonists. It has been eye-opening to read their reactions to these wonderful books.
Here are some more reviews:

Park, Barbara. The Graduation of Jake Moon. New York: Antheneum books, 2000.
Do you know someone with Alzheimer’s? If not, then you don’t know how hard it is for Jake Moon to deal with his grandfather’s Alzheimer’s. Read about it in The Graduation of Jake Moon by Barbara Park. Jake is a normal eighth grade boy, except he is the only one that deals with a grandfather with Alzheimer’s disease.
It isn’t that bad for Jake because the challenges he faces help him mature. Although his grandfather has embarrassed him time after time he continues to help him. This book could be enjoyed by anyone, especially people who are ready to laugh and cry at this humorous yet tear-jerking novel. ~Ryan

Woodson, Jacqueline. Locomotion. New York: Penguin, 2003. Print.
In Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson Lonnie finds himself alone when his parents die in a fire. He is split up from his sister, Lili, and both are put in foster homes. The story takes place by Lonnie’s house in his neighborhood.
Lonnie is the main character and his biggest obstacle to overcome is the fact his parents died and him splitting up with his sister. He finally comes of age when he starts to overcome that by writing all kinds of different poems. But I didn’t like how the book was a poem because it kind of took some information away because the author was trying to make it a poem. But this is a short and easy read recommended for ages 10-16. ~Willie

Weeks, Sarah. So B. It. New York: HarperTrophy, 2004. Print.
Imagine living in an apartment with your mentally ill mother and your neighbor, yet you and everybody else has no idea how you got there. This is true for Heidi in the exciting novel So B. It by Sarah Weeks. In this thriller you will travel with 12-year-old Heidi from Reno, Nevada to New York City to find out who she is, who her mom is, and what is “soof”.
You will meet all sorts of characters: Mama, Bernadette, and Heidi. Mama has a twenty-three word vocabulary and is mentally ill. Bernadette can’t take a step outside without the feeling that she is drowning. And Heidi is a curious girl, but will her curiosity overwhelm her? In this book, Heidi will learn to grow up when she travels independently for the first time and faces a terrible tragedy. This book is a good read for anyone ages 10-15. Pick up this thriller by Sarah Weeks. ~Mia

Hinton, S.E. The Outsiders. New York: Dell Publishing, 1995. Print.
In this area you never walk alone without a blade or a friend. Pony boy Curtis is 14 years old and he lives in this area. His parents died in a car crash, but he has two very hard working brothers that he lives with. They look out for him and love him. They are also in a gang, “The Greasers”, along with Dally, Steve, Jonny, and two bit. They are all very close friends. That’s what makes this book so good, I think, because they all have to look out for each other and help each other out of bad bad situations. Plenty of bad things happen in this gang. Most of it has to do with the social’s, also called the soc’s. They are the rich kids with mustangs and and all the girls. These two groups hate each other. And to make things worse, Jonny and Ponyboy started to hang out with one of the soc’s girlfriends at the drive-in. A few hours later, well, here comes the soc’s in their blue Mustang. After what happens in this event leads to a bad chain of events. Get the book to see what happens. ~Jack

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

"Coming of Age"

The reviews you have been reading this past month are all part of an assignment looking at books with a coming-of-age theme. I love this theme and see it in almost all YA (teen) books. It is a point in a young person's life when they look beyond their every day life, and make decisions that will have an impact on their whole life. It can be a decision to stand up for someone who is being bullied, or refusing to listen to jokes that make fun of a group of people; could be ethnic jokes, blond jokes, or any group. Coming-of-age can also be a time when you come to understand someone's (usually a beloved relative) behavior and accept the person for who they are, not for who you want them to be. It can also be a story where the protagonist must make adult decisions. In other words, no matter what age, the character comes of age to accept and truly make decisions that make a difference in their own life or their family's life.

I enjoy reading these stories because I put myself into the specific character and wonder if I could take that adult step. Of course, as an adult I already have had to do that, but adults need to be reminded of those important roles we play, how we must mentor to students and always try to do our best. Fiction helps us see not an individual situation, but a universal situation that we project into our own life. It's an amazing process.

Here are some more guest reviews from Voorheesville Middle School;

Schmidt, Gary. The Wednesday Wars. New York. 2007. Print.
“Mrs. Baker hates me.” The Wednesday Wars is a great fun, and an exciting book. Mostly takes place at a school in the 1960s. The main character in the book is a kid named Holling Hoodhood. He thinks that the English teacher hates him.
But in the end he finds out her life story. And how it is not right to judge until you know what the problem is. Mrs. Baker’s husband has been lost in a special mission in Viet Nam and it almost ruins her. You’ll need to read the book to find out what happens. I like the book because it is interesting and there is always something going on. ~Adam

Connor, Leslie. Waiting for Normal. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 2008. Print.
Award-winning writer Leslie Connor is the author of the terrific and life changing story, Waiting for Normal. Imagine having to lie to your step-father every time he would call to check in. Eleven years old, Addie, is in this situation. This sweet story takes place in Schenectady, New York, in a trailer across the street from the minimart. It’s an amazing journey that at some parts may make you cry, laugh, or even giggle.
Addie is stuck between choosing which life she wants to live, either with her step-father, Dwight or her “all-or-nothing” mother, Mommers. Over the course of the story Addie grows and matures and begins to realize which life she wants to live. Along the way she makes some friends, Soula and Elliot, who work at the minimart. Later, Addie comes to a conclusion that Soula has cancer. Things then get rough. Read the book, Waiting for Normal, to find out which life she chooses and find out if Soula is going to be okay. The Recommended ages for this book are 10-14.~Jaynie

Hinton S.E. The Outsiders. N.Y.: Del Publishing Co. 1982. Print.
What would you do if you were running away from a murder? And what if the murderer was your best friend? Unfortunately for Ponyboy and his friend Johnny it isn’t an image in his head it is really happening to them. Ponyboy and his friend live in the rural part of Oklahoma in the 1960’s. In the city there are two main gang groups, the Greasers and the Socs. Johnny and Ponyboy are part of the Greasers along with Dallas, Two-Bit, and SodaPop.
The way Ponyboy came of age is when he turned himself in because he helped a murderer escape the hands of the police. Another way he came of age is when he saved a bunch of kids in a church. A lot of people would like this book; maybe people who like suspense, action, and thrills. The book had a good beginning and middle but the end was not so good.~Cameron